Message in a Bottle

Legacy.com’s Content Screeners have a unique glimpse into the way we deal with loss. Today, Lise reflects on the countless entries she has read in the four years she’s been a screener. And she offers a bit of hope.

On one of the saddest days of your life, you stare blankly at your computer in disbelief. How can you be writing a message of love, loss, and good-bye for someone you just saw yesterday, or it seemed like only last week? You pour out your heart and your memories and click “send.” How far will it travel? How long will it take? Will anyone see it? It feels like launching a message in a bottle.

Every month, we receive one million condolence messages. That’s one million voices every month.

But please know this: amongst the millions of voices, I hear yours. Every Guest Book entry represents a story, a person, a voice. While my colleagues and I have to move quickly, we operate on two levels simultaneously. Professional separation helps us assess every entry with guidelines and instinct, but at a deeper level, I still hear your every word.

Some stories are of trusted co-workers and the voice is formal. Others “talk to” their school buddies or best friends, telling tales of hilarious childhood exploits. Their voices are merry, with only a tinge of sadness. Those who have lost beloved mothers and fathers, sometimes their only confidantes, have made me shiver in my chair. I can hear their tears. These hit close to home. Without miracles, my own parents would not be here.

Harder still to read are authors’ stories of loved ones who were lost to tragic accidents, or worse, to treachery and foul play. Be patient with me, with us, if the latter is the case. It may take longer to sort out public knowledge and the family’s wishes to determine if your story can be told appropriately through this Guest Book. Sometimes they cannot. Nevertheless, I hear your anger and frustration.

Your stories told late at night can be nearly as hard to read. The day’s weariness and building burden of grief can open your floodgates that normally hold emotions, good or bad, in check. I hear your joy, and your despair.

The stories I dread the most are of your littlest angels, your children taken too soon. Whether by illness or accident, I can hear the pieces of your hearts wail in pain. Tears roll down my face. There is no help for it. So I take a deep breath and get a glass of water.

The moist poignant sometimes are the “crickets,” the authors who are the only ones to faithfully write in their loved ones’ Guest Books day after day, month after month, year after year. You wonder if you are the only one who remembers anymore. You feel alone, but you are not. I am here, too, remembering with you.

And then there are the entries that cannot be explained.

A year ago, my best friend from college lost her 18-year-old nephew in a car accident. Trevor’s death devastated her entire extended family. My heart went out to them. One day, when I had volunteered to work outside my normal hours, an entry for his Guest Book appeared on my screen. Out of the tens of thousands of entries that day, and the many people working at the same time, up popped a remembrance of Trevor. I froze… and then smiled. What are the odds? But then, months later, it happened again. On a day I was not normally scheduled to work, an entry from a school friend pouring out her memories of Trevor suddenly appeared. I could not believe my eyes. Mysteriously, both these entries had found their way to me. It must be that when your heart reaches out to someone, there’s always an answer.

You may feel that the memories of your loved ones will be lost among the millions from around the world. Don’t worry. Your Guest Book entries reach the shores of Legacy.com, one at a time, until you and I finally meet in the story on my computer screen:

One author, one reader…

One message in a bottle.

About Lise

I joined Legacy.com as a remote content screener in April 2008. Reading people stories and telling people stories are some of my favorite things to do! I also love meeting people, all of which makes Legacy a terrific place to work. You couldn’t ask for better co-workers. My background includes 14 years' experience as a national magazine editor, book editor, newspaper reporter, co-author of two books, and freelance writer. In addition to writing & editing content for both adults & children, I’ve enjoyed being a featured guest speaker at writers' conferences. I have degrees in Magazine Journalism and French, which came in handy one year when traveling in Old Lyons, France. On the way to dinner I found myself in the middle of a protest at city hall, so I took news photos. Though originally from Madison/Middleton Beach, Wisconsin, I’ve lived in Indianapolis for many years. This makes for divided NFL loyalties between the Green Bay Packers (Go Green Bay!) and the Indianapolis Colts in a post-Manning era. I enjoy spending time with family & friends, but especially like writing, traveling, reading new books, making jewelry, and keeping up with my two little nephews!
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